Brussels-Controversy has continued for the second consecutive day in the parliamentary and partisan circles in Belgium in the aftermath of what some of the media described as “racial incident” that occurred during one of the parliamentary sessions discussing the closure of the Caterpillar factory in Gosselies, near Charleroi.
On Thursday, MP Luk Van Besien said that maybe lawmaker Meryame Kitir should “Go back to Morocco.”
However, the Flemish Liberal Federal Van Biesen said the next day that he deeply regrets what he said in the Chamber of Representatives.
“I would like to make it clear that I regret the hurtful and insulting words I used about returning to Morocco as part of my argument. I regret that I gave the impression that I wanted to hurt Kitir and the Moroccan community.”
During a joint press statement Van Biesen added: “I am not a racist and I will never become a racist.”
“Racism is unacceptable wherever that might be and certainly in parliament. We should set an example.”
Speaking later in an interview with VRT News, Kitir said: “It made me angry, I’m not going to accept it and I will take it further.”
“The thing that really makes me angry is that if it could happen in this house it means that racism is still very strong and we must continue to react against it.”
Kitir added she is especially pleased that a message is being sent out that racism is unacceptable. “Be that in this house or outside this house.”
“I am pleased that we have come together through dialogue and that together we can convey the message that we are against racism.”
During Thursday’s debate, Kitir said that her party is in favor of getting unemployed people back into the labor market.
However, the socialist, herself a former worker at the now defunct Ford plant in Genk, Limburg, added that employers should also be prepared to give older people a chance.
The MP, who was born and raised in Limburg province from Moroccan parents, said that as she was returning to her seat after giving her word, Van Biesen told her: “If you are not happy then go back to Morocco.”
In a reaction inside the chamber, Van Biesen said “I would like to apologize if my words were misunderstood. What I said was that the employees at Caterpillar are highly productive and that they will be able to convince employers on the labor market whatever their roots might be.”
“Those are words that I would never use; it is not in my nature. I have too much respect for everyone in this parliament and certainly for Kitir.”